“You shouldn’t rush something you want to last forever.”
Dating is NOT a relationship.
A relationship takes time, work, intention, and compromise. Dating is how we learn what we like in a partner, as well as what we want to avoid.
Sometimes these two concepts are confused, and dating is approached as if the groundwork has already been developed and the next step is sex, love, and moving in together.
While these stages are fun and exciting to think about, moving too fast can result in disappointment and frustration.
We want to be as intentional with our prospects for a committed relationship as we are when buying a house, a car, a new pair of jeans, or planning that bachelorette party in Las Vegas.
The first step to being purposeful when dating, is to value yourself.
Because you will pick a partner who values you to the same level that you value yourself.
If you do not think of yourself as valuable, worthy, and loveable, neither will your partner. A simple way to value yourself is to pay attention to your needs and meet them.
If you are hungry, eat. If you are sad, comfort yourself. Having self-worth and value also help you identify what you require from others.
When you know what you require, you are quickly able to recognize dating concerns, or red flags.
The more you value yourself, those red flags become deal breakers.
At times, it is tempting to ignore the red flags, or deal breakers, because the heart is focused on the areas that feel good.
The brain, however, must also get on board with determining if what the heart is attracted to is healthy and wise. Letting only the heart decide is not making full use of the other aspects of good decision making.
Just like when buying that new pair of shoes. The heart wants them, and the brain reminds us that we need to wait until they go on sale. Your brain can help set those boundaries where the heart sometimes struggles.
Falling in love is fun, magical, and temporary. Building a sustaining loving relationship takes time, investment, effort, and work.
The heart wants to get lost in the infatuation and lust that occurs in the beginning, and the brain can set those healthy permeable boundaries that protect us from losing ourselves in the relationship.
To lose oneself in a relationship signifies a lack of boundaries.
Take your hands and clasp them together, fingers intertwined. This is a lack of boundaries, or enmeshment, and looks like someone losing her sense of self. Now take your hands into fists linking just the pinkies together like a pinkie swear. This symbolizes a healthy dynamic, where two people come together with healthy permeable boundaries.
Each partner is a separate individual and there is a crossover where the relationship lives.
This is interdependence which is achieved when you value yourself, choose a partner using your brain and heart, and sets you up for a healthy, happy and satisfying relationship.
Dr. Tracy S. Kelly, LMFT – www.DrTracyKelly.com
Do you find yourself becoming unbalanced when you fall in love?
Whether or not you can stay grounded while falling in love may in part have to do with your attachment style.
Attachment style refers to the way in which you relate to those you depend on.
Once established in the first two or three years of life, an attachment style may stay with you and impact how you relate in a romantic relationship as well as how you parent.
Falling in love can be an intoxicating and at times maddening experience.
If you have an anxious attachment style (due to inconsistent parenting), falling in love may be more of an anxiety-producing experience.
This attachment style may lead you to feel extremely insecure even if there is little actual reason to feel this way.
- Do you fixate on seeking approval and reassurance from your new partner due to overwhelming anxiety?
- Do you look for and find red flags everywhere in the relationship?
- Does your anxiety outweigh the enjoyment of falling in love and make it seem too difficult?
It’s normal for many women to find the falling in love process to be anxiety-producing.
Some women find it helpful to establish daily self-care rituals such as meditation or yoga to stay grounded.
If you continue to feel insecure and the reassurance of your partner does not soothe you, it may be helpful to seek the support of a therapist with knowledge of attachment issues.
Women with an avoidant attachment style learned as children not to rely on anyone. This style may act as a protective defense against falling in love too quickly.
- Do you have difficulty becoming highly invested in a relationship?
- Do you keep your emotions inside and have trouble sharing vulnerable feelings with your partner?
- Do you feel safest and most comfortable when keeping a man at a distance?
This tactic may feel like the way to stay grounded in the process, but it actually blocks love from unfolding and deepening.
Although part of you may truly want to fall in love, you may struggle to connect to the more vulnerable emotions needed to do so.
For some people, early childhood experiences (e.g. trauma) led to detaching from emotions altogether. Confiding in a therapist can be the first step to overcoming this block.
Many individuals in the population are fortunate to have been securely attached as children.
In this style of attachment, people can tolerate closeness and separateness, and a range of emotions in relationships, without extreme overwhelm.
The good news is that even if you have more of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, it is never too late to work towards developing a secure attachment style as an adult.
Working on understanding your attachment style and life narrative are important first steps.
Finding a mate in which you can develop a healthy and secure bond with is another essential step.
Jennifer Rubolino, EdD, LMHC – www.drjenniferrubolino.com
Have you ever heard the saying that no one is perfect? That is something we can easily forget when we begin a new relationship.
When we start to fall in love with someone, we may get so excited about being in love that we do not notice what would normally be deal breakers for us.
Many of us look past qualities in our love interest that we wouldn’t normally accept from others in our life.
This is of course not always what happens, some of us still only concentrate on flaws, however, it could occur if we find ourselves overly excited or enthusiastic about being in love.
If you are the type to get swept away and overlook certain negative characteristics in a new love interest, below are some tips to stay grounded in who you are, while falling in love:
1. Keep in mind that there will be things you don’t like about your new love interest.
Pay attention to what might usually be a deal breaker for you. Ask yourself: “Is this really something I want long-term?” “Is this a non-negotiable for me later down the line?”
For example: Does he/she not want kids and I do? Does he/she smoke and I only want to be with a non -smoker?
2. Don’t expect your new love to change down the road.
It’s not that people don’t change, it is that people don’t change unless it comes from within themselves. So, don’t go in, ignoring aspects of your new partner thinking the things about him/her that you don’t like now won’t be a recurring thing. Most likely they’ll still be messy, not responsible, easily angered etc.
3. Keep your own interests and hobbies.
Many people jump into liking the hobbies and interest of their new partner. Try to stay true to what you really like and enjoy even if your partner isn’t into it.
4. Remember who you are.
Try not to lose yourself in the relationship. Remember it is totally fine to say “no” to something you don’t want to do. You do not have to participate in everything that your partner wants you to.
5. Make sure you aren’t in a relationship to feel worthy of love.
So many of us jump into relationships because we don’t feel worthy and complete without a significant other. It’s important to make sure you feel complete and worthy of love even when you’re single. Or you might just fall in love with someone who isn’t right for you long-term.
So, make sure you are in love with YOU before you love anyone else.
Ilene Cohen, Ph.D. – www.doctorilene.com
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had such control of our emotions that we could actually prevent ourselves from falling in love too quickly?
The idea that we can somehow dispense in calculated measure the amount of adoration we feel for someone sounds so safe, so controlled.
Is that not, however, exactly what “falling” is not – staying safe or controlled?
Falling in love does require we accept a bit of that feeling of losing control, but it does not mean we must lose connection to ourselves.
Staying connected to self when falling in love insists we commit to our authenticity, check in frequently with our values, and always remember we are whole beings whether single or coupled.
In an effort to not fall too fast, remember these things.
1. You are, were, and always will be, complete as a single person.
The person you choose to love should be an enhancement to your already amazing life. Your values are intact and you know your worth.
2. Your time alone can be some of the most enjoyable time of your life, so do not give it up easily.
If you learn to enjoy the company of yourself first, you run less risk of falling too quickly. Desperation says, “hurry!” Self acceptance says, “take all the time you need.”
3. Friends are usually our original soulmates.
Keep them close and do not forget about them. The value of those friendships does not change when we fall in love.
Never stop growing. Never stop evolving. Never stop acquiring life experiences. Never stop investing in you. Falling in love adds more complexity to this already fascinating journey of yours but it is part of the journey, not the arrival point.
4. Let yourself enjoy the journey.
Often, we look beyond the present moment in hopes of manifesting the future we dream of. Holding too tightly to a desired outcome only distorts the present moment and guarantees us nothing. The future will arrive soon enough and will be what it is. Don’t skip the discovery phase!
Nothing takes our breath away quite like falling in love, so fall with abandon, but take your time. You are not in a hurry because you don’t need to be. You are fantastic just as you are.
Elizabeth Miller, LISW – www.elizabethmcounseling.com
It can be easy for love to sweep us off our feet, especially in new relationships.
When falling in love, a part of our brain lights up that correlates with infatuation, often referred to as “puppy love.”
When we’re in this state, all we can focus on is the point of our infatuation.
The pleasure-seeking parts of our brains cause us to become so excited to be with that other person that we can become enraptured with their presence, tossing aside our interests and me-time, focusing only on what can bring us closer to that enticing butterfly feeling.
While getting butterflies and feeling connected are truly beautiful experiences, it is important to stay grounded in ourselves during this time.
This may mean making decisions based not on what you want in the moment, but slowing down and reflecting on what you need.
“I need a break.”
Pop culture has coded this infamous line as meaning we are being rejected or rejecting others, but in reality, we all need a break from others to take time for ourselves.
If we only ever choose to act in our significant other’s best interest — even if, in that moment, we want to put them first, over our own needs — then serious issues can later arise like a loss of self, low self-confidence and esteem, and even resentment toward our significant other.
Breaks can offer you the space to become attuned to what your system needs instead of rushing to chase that love-drug feeling.
These breaks can look like taking a night to stay-in and catch up on your favorite show or go-out with just your friends.
In order to stay grounded, you need to reflect on your own unique needs and give your relationships boundaries that maintain space for you.
After all, that’s who the other person fell in love with!
Logan Brantley, LGSW – www.vivapartnership.com
Ah, falling in love. Such a wonderful feeling. You get butterflies in your stomach when you see their face, when they call or text, even when they say your name. You can’t help but think and talk constantly about them.
Everything feels right in the world, even if it isn’t, because, well you’re in love.
But let’s pump the breaks. Sometimes when this happens, we fall in love quickly and we fall in love hard. Which is wonderful, yeah, but it can also be catastrophic.
Why, you ask?
Well, when you are looking at your love interest with rose-colored glasses, you can miss the red flags.
When you’ve fallen in love with someone so hard, you can look past certain things that they do that normally may annoy, upset or even offend you just because you want this person to be this perfect image you have created in your mind.
And while that is not always the case, it is important to remember that it happens and in order to keep yourself from getting your heart broken or losing yourself, here are some tips to help keep you grounded.
1. Remember, nobody is perfect. Everyone has flaws.
- Pay attention to those flaws and keep an open mind, but also ask yourself, can I deal with this long term?
- Is this a deal breaker later down the line?
For example, let’s say you go to your love interests’ home and notice that it is pretty messy. And let’s say you are a neat freak.
You may say, this doesn’t bother me because I don’t live with them. But what you should be doing is asking yourself, can I see myself living with this person in the future?
2. Usually when we fall in love we want to spend every waking moment with this person.
And this means ignoring friends and family. Now if things fall apart, who will you need to lean on? Those friends and family right?
So instead of spending all your time with this new love interest, resist the urge. Go out with friends. Visit your family. And take note as to how your love interest reacts.
- Do they get mad that you aren’t spending time with them?
- Do they accuse you of spending too much time with others?
This is a good way to judge their character and notice any jealousies.
3. Sometimes when falling in love we want to do everything this new love interest does.
You’ve never played golf in your life, but suddenly you’re hitting the greens with them. You’re watching their favorite movies and tv shows and you’re eating their favorite foods.
Don’t lose sight of who YOU are.
Don’t lose yourself in the relationship. It is perfectly fine to want to participate in things that your new love likes, but it is a two way street and make sure that they are going to those poetry readings with you, going to your favorite restaurants, etc.
And remember it is OK to say no to something. You don’t have to share EVERYTHING.
Desiree Taranto, MHC-LP – www.eymtherapy.com
Falling in love with a new partner can be an exhilarating experience. It can also be a scary one because it can bring up so many fears around rejection!
As a sex therapist and coach, I see these fears surface when clients meet someone new!
When I explore these situations with my clients, I often challenge them to notice if they are being their authentic selves or not when with their new partner.
Society sends a pervasive message that we cannot be 100% ourselves and still find the love we want.
That’s why there are so many movies and TV shows about changing yourself before you are “worthy of love”. This is one reason that some people “water” themselves down when dating someone new. It’s the fear that if we are completely ourselves, the person we are falling for won’t fall for us.
I encourage my clients to look at this differently. If you feel yourself behaving in a way that isn’t authentic, that is a major red flag.
Staying aligned with who you are no matter who you are dating is a beautiful way to stay grounded. Don’t give up on your work, hobbies, or the things that make you unique! Lean into them. If your new partner doesn’t like that side of you, perhaps the relationship is not meant to be!
I also encourage my clients to get clear on what they are looking for in a relationship.
Getting clear on your desires, your wants, and your needs can help you feel grounded when you date because you’ll be conscious if the relationship is aligned with what you desire.
It is also a good idea to get clear on potential red flags so that you won’t ignore them if they appear.
Sometimes we can feel so blinded by lust that it can be easy to ignore those red flags. This process can help you stay true to what you want from a relationship and partner.
Jodi Erin Rabinowitz, MA, LPC – www.jodierin.com
1. Know yourself before entering a relationship
Identify and connect to your own needs and desires. A disconnection from yourself will contribute to difficulty in connecting to your partner. After all, if we do not best understand ourselves, how we can understand our partner and expect our partner to understand us?!
Additionally, a strong sense of self for both you and your partner, or individuality within the relationship, will support the creation of interdependency (healthy dependency on your partner, one by which you can continue to be independent) rather than codependency (over-reliance on partner).
2. Social Media vs. Reality
Differentiate between falling in love with the idea of someone vs. falling in love with who the person really is. Online dating has become an extremely popular platform as a way for singles to connect to others.
Particularly with online dating, a false sense of intimacy can be created, as we are not physically connecting with a partner and getting to know them for who they truly are; it is easy to paint a picture of someone being “perfect” and “checking off all of the boxes” based on an online profile and text threads.
Be patient and allow yourself time to get to know the person for who they truly are – unedited photos and conversations that occur in real time (without having the ability to think about crafting a text message) will support you in determining compatibility.
3. Maintain your routine
Participate in your normal activities and complete your daily responsibilities. When engaging in a relationship, it is beneficial when your partner understands and accepts that you have current obligations and interests – these events contribute to your sense of self and individuality.
4. Engage in acts of self-care
Prioritize your own needs and intentionally engage in activities to take care of your mental, emotional and physical health. Identify activities that bring you joy and incorporate those into your daily routine.
5. Value the opinions of friends and family
Acknowledge that it is easy to “wear blinders” when falling in love and perhaps not clearly see any potential red flags in your partner or the relationship.
Accept feedback and opinions from those in your life who you value and trust.
Although it may be difficult to hear such feedback, recognize that your friends and family are sharing their observations with your best interests in mind.
6. Determine priorities
Define what is important to you in a relationship and communicate those needs openly and honestly. it is important to evaluate how the relationship can move forward should you and your partner’s needs not be in alignment or if you cannot come to a mutual understanding or agreement.
Melissa Horowitz, LCSW – www.lizmorrisontherapy.com
Falling in love is so much fun! Everyone wants to experience that euphoric state that’s makes one feel like floating on air! What can keep you tethered to reality without popping the bubble?
Seeing the bigger picture helps. A ton.
1. Consider what kind of a mate you want.
We subconsciously know exactly what we want, but often don’t take time to let our consciousness in on our plans. So often we end up with someone who falls short of our invisible list of qualifications.
To avoid that, take time to write down the qualities you desire for a lifelong companion.
If you’d like some help in this area, in my book, Unstuck: Move from Powerless to Empowered in Your Relationships, Chapter 17, talks about Ideal Relationships and suggested qualities that contribute to that ideal.
2. Take it slow.
The media has convinced us to become physically intimate before we’ve gotten our new interest’s last name down.
What they don’t tell us is that once we’ve slept together, it’s much harder to see the other person objectively.
We’re then emotionally invested in our new flame only to discover traits we can’t tolerate. It’s much harder to break off the relationship at that point. And it’s impossible to do it painlessly.
Oddly, it’s much easier to get physically naked than it is to bare our souls. So get to know your partner before you get intimate.
3. Be intentional.
Great partnerships stay that way only by working on them. The fact that you are reading this column shows that you are already doing this. You’ve demonstrated that you want a better experience than you witnessed from your caretakers growing up. Attacking, criticizing and blaming quickly erode feelings of love.
If you’d like to know more about how to avoid that, Chapter 10 of Unstuck, addresses the topic in detail.
Determine to continue learning about relationships and work on being the best version of you that you can be.
We go to school to learn how to have a great career. It’s just as important to educate yourself on how to have a great relationship.
You’re already on a path to having this experience of falling in love be one that is lasting, because you are seeking to learn what you can do to avoid mistakes of the past.
- So keep your eyes wide open to the kind of mate you want and don’t settle.
- Get to know him before you sleep with him.
- Be intentional about working on yourself and the relationship every step of the way.
May following these suggestions keep you flying high while solidly anchored in reality.
Charlene Benson, LPC, CSAT, CMAT – www.bensontherapist.com
You may not, except with express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.